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Matthew 18:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Except ye be converted - Unless ye be saved from those prejudices which are at present so baneful to your nation, (seeking a temporal and not a spiritual kingdom), unless ye be clothed with the spirit of humility, ye cannot enter into the spirit, design, and privileges of my spiritual and eternal kingdom. The name of this kingdom should put you in mind of its nature. -

  1. The King is heavenly;
  • His Subjects are heavenly-minded;
  • Their Country is heavenly, for they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth;
  • The Government of this kingdom is wholly spiritual and divine.
  • See on Matthew 3:2; (note).

    And become as little children - i.e. Be as truly without worldly ambition, and the lust of power, as little children are, who act among themselves as if all were equal. The following saying from the Boostan of the poet Saady is very appropriate. "The hearts of infants being free from avarice, what care they for a handful of silver more than for a handful of dust?"

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible
    Verses 1-6

    See also Mark 9:33-41; Luke 9:46-50.

    Who is the greatest in the kingdom, of heaven? - By the kingdom of heaven they meant the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up - his kingdom as the Messiah. They asked the question because they supposed, in accordance with the common expectation of the Jews, that he was about to set up a temporal kingdom of great splendor, and they wished to know who should have the principal offices, and posts of honor and profit. This was among them a frequent subject of inquiry and controversy. Mark Mark 9:34 informs us that they had had a dispute on this subject in the way. Jesus, he says, inquired of them what they had been disputing about. Luke Luke 9:47 says that Jesus perceived the thought of their heart an act implying omniscience, for none can search the heart but God, Jeremiah 17:10. The disciples, conscious that the subject of their dispute was known, requested Jesus to decide it, Matthew 18:1. They were at first silent through shame (Mark), but, perceiving that the subject of their dispute was known, they came, as Matthew states, and referred the master to him for his opinion.

    Matthew 18:2, Matthew 18:3

    Except ye be converted - The word “converted” means changed or turned.

    The verb means to change or turn from one habit of life or set of opinions to another, James 5:19; Luke 22:32. See also Matthew 7:6; Matthew 16:23; Luke 7:9, etc., where the same word is used in the original. It sometimes refers to that great change called the new birth or regeneration Psalm 51:13; Isaiah 60:5; Acts 3:19, but not always. It is a general word, meaning any change. The word “regeneration” denotes a particular change the beginning to live a spiritual life. The phrase, “Except ye be converted,” does not imply, of necessity, that they were not Christians before, or had not been born again. It means that their opinions and feelings about the kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed that he was to be a temporal prince. They expected he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had, and they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices. Jesus told them that they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

    And become as little children - Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they must become like them. They must lay aside their ambitious views and their pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station - a very lowly one. Mark says Mark 9:35 that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that “if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.” That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us is humility, and it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are; but pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.

    Matthew 18:4

    The greatest … - That is, shall be the most eminent Christian shall have most of the true spirit of religion.

    Matthew 18:5

    And whoso shall receive one such little child - That is, whoso shall receive and love one with a spirit like this child one who is humble, meek, and unambitious - that is, a real Christian.

    In my name - As a follower of me, or because he is attached to me.

    Whoso receives one possessed of my spirit, or who loves him because he has that spirit, loves me also. The word “receive” means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in the time of need. See Matthew 25:35-40.

    Mark Mark 9:38 and Luke Luke 9:49 add a conversation that took place on this occasion, which has been omitted by Matthew. John told him that they had seen one casting out devils in his name, and they forbade him, because he followed not with them. Jesus replied that he should not have been forbidden, for there was no one who could work a miracle in his name that could lightly speak evil of him. That is, though he did not attend them though he had not joined himself to their society, yet he could not really be opposed to him. Indeed, they should have remembered that the power to work a miracle must always come from the same source, that is, God; and that he who had the ability given him to work a miracle, and who did it in the name of Christ, must be a real friend to him. It is probable, from this, that the power of working miracles in the name of Christ was given to many who did not attend on his ministry.

    Matthew 18:6

    Whoso shall offend - That is, cause to fall, or to sin; or who should place anything in their way to hinder their piety or happiness. See notes at Matthew 5:29.

    These little ones - That is, Christians manifesting the spirit of little children, 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:28.

    It were better for him that a millstone … - Mills, anciently, were either turned by hand (see the notes at Matthew 24:41), or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These last were of the larger kind, and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. This was one mode of capital punishment practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other nations. The meaning is, it would be better for him to have died before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Christ spoke many words of his sufferings, but only one of his glory; yet the disciples fasten upon that, and overlook the others. Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. Our Lord set a little child before them, solemnly assuring them, that unless they were converted and made like little children, they could not enter his kingdom. Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents. It is true that they soon begin to show other dispositions, and other ideas are taught them at an early age; but these are marks of childhood, and render them proper emblems of the lowly minds of true Christians. Surely we need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all. Let us daily study this subject, and examine our own spirits.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 323

    Advice is asked of those in Battle Creek regarding matters which could just as well be settled by men on the ground, if they would seek the Lord, and which ought to have been done within their own borders. The Lord declares He is nigh to all that call upon Him with a sincere heart. Said Christ, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” This promise is made doubly and trebly sure. There is no failure with God. Today men who are presidents of conferences are less efficient and strong and able than they should be, because they place man where God should be, and they receive only that which man can give them. TM 323.1

    Presidents of conferences, you will be wise if you will decide to come to God. Believe in Him. He will hear your prayers, and come to your assistance, in much less time than the public conveyances could take one, two, three, or four men from a long distance, at a great expense, to decide questions which the God of wisdom can decide far better for you. He has promised, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If you will sincerely humble your hearts before Him, empty your souls of self-esteem, and put away the natural defects of your character, and overcome your love of supremacy, and come to God as little children, He will bestow on you His Holy Spirit. When two or three shall agree as touching anything, and shall ask the Lord, in the name of Jesus, it shall be done for them. TM 323.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, 529

    J and K both lack sympathy and love for those outside of their own families. They are in danger of watching to see defects in others while greater evils exist undiscerned in themselves. If these dear souls ever enter heaven, they must die to self and obtain an experience in well-doing. They have lessons to learn in the school of Christ in order to perfect Christian characters and have a oneness with Christ. Said Christ to His disciples: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He explained His meaning to them. He did not wish them to become children in understanding, but in malice. Little children do not manifest feelings of superiority and aristocracy. They are simple and natural in their appearance. Christ would have His followers cultivate unaffected manners, that their whole bearing may be humble and Christlike. He has made it our duty to live for others’ good. He came from the royal courts of heaven to this world to show how great an interest He had in man, and the infinite price paid for the redemption of man shows that man is of so great value that Christ could sacrifice His riches and honor in the royal courts to lift him from the degradation of sin. 3T 529.1

    If the Majesty of heaven could do so much to show His love for man, what ought not men to be willing to do to help one another out of the pit of darkness and suffering! Said Christ, “Love one another, as I have loved you;” not with a greater love; for “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our love is frequently selfish, for we confine it to prescribed limits. When we come into close union and fellowship with Christ, our love and sympathy and our works of benevolence will reach down deeper and will widen and strengthen with exercise. The love and interest of Christ's followers must be as broad as the world. Those who live merely for “me and mine” will fail of heaven. God calls upon you as a family to cultivate love, to become less sensitive in regard to yourselves and more sensitive to the griefs and trials of others. This selfish spirit that you have cherished all your lives is correctly represented by the priest and the Levite who passed by the unfortunate on the other side. They saw that he needed help, but purposely avoided him. 3T 529.2

    Each one of you needs to awake and face square about to get out of the cart rut of selfishness. Improve the short, probationary time given you by working with your might to redeem the failures of your past life. God has placed you in a world of suffering to prove you, to see if you will be found worthy of the gift of eternal life. There are those all around you who have woes, who need words of sympathy, love, and tenderness, and our humble, pitying prayers. Some are suffering under the iron hand of poverty, some with disease, and others with heartaches, despondency, and gloom. Like Job, you should be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, and you should inquire into the cause which you know not and search it out with the object in view to relieve their necessities and help just where they most need help. 3T 530.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 222

    To become a disciple of Christ is to deny self and follow Jesus through evil as well as good report. Few are doing this now. Many prophesy falsely, and the people love to have it so; but what will be done in the end thereof? What will be the decision when their work, with all its results, shall be brought in review before God? 5T 222.1

    The Christian life is a warfare. The apostle Paul speaks of wrestling against principalities and powers as he fought the good fight of faith. Again, he declares: “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Ah, no. Today sin is cherished and excused. The sharp sword of the Spirit, the word of God, does not cut to the soul. Has religion changed? Has Satan's enmity to God abated? A religious life once presented difficulties and demanded self-denial. All is made very easy now. And why is this? The professed people of God have compromised with the power of darkness. 5T 222.2

    There must be a revival of the strait testimony. The path to heaven is no smoother now than in the days of our Saviour. All our sins must be put away. Every darling indulgence that hinders our religious life must be cut off. The right eye or the right hand must be sacrificed if it cause us to offend. Are we willing to renounce our own wisdom and to receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child? Are we willing to part with self-righteousness? Are we willing to give up our chosen worldly associates? Are we willing to sacrifice the approbation of men? The prize of eternal life is of infinite value. Will we put forth efforts and make sacrifices proportionate to the worth of the object to be attained? 5T 222.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Adventist Home, 306

    Bible Principles to Be Followed—There is need for constant watching that the principles which lie at the foundation of family government are not disregarded. The Lord designs that the families on earth shall be symbols of the family in heaven. And when earthly families are conducted in right lines, the same sanctification of the Spirit will be brought into the church.4 AH 306.1

    Parents should themselves be converted and know what it is to be in submission to God's will, as little children, bringing into captivity their thoughts to the will of Jesus Christ, before they can rightly represent the government that God designed should exist in the family.5 AH 306.2

    God Himself established the family relations. His word is the only safe guide in the management of children. Human philosophy has not discovered more than God knows or devised a wiser plan of dealing with children than that given by our Lord. Who can better understand all the needs of children than their Creator? Who can feel a deeper interest in their welfare than He who bought them with His own blood? If the word of God were carefully studied and faithfully obeyed, there would be less soul anguish over the perverse conduct of wicked children.6 AH 306.3

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